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McDonald’s on Telegraph Avenue

on November 18, 2009

“Can I help you?” asks one of the McDonald’s cashiers.

“421!” another employee shouts, calling out an order number.

The McDonalds on 46th and Telegraph is a relatively quiet fast-food stop. People come in and out, but very few sit inside to eat. Underneath the McDonald’s large sign it reads, “over 70 billion served,” but the restaurant seems so empty inside. Between 9 and 10 a.m., only ten people walk inside, although the drive-through window has steady traffic.

The majority of the customers this Wednesday morning that venture inside the Golden Arches’ doors are men. Some wear suits and ties, others wear work boots and worn denim jeans that have paint-splatter on them. The parking lot is a mixture of BMWs and run-down trucks.

“Have a nice day!” says the cashier.

Telegraph Avenue is very busy with cars and buses flying past the McDonald’s windows. The “1R” bus stops in front of McDonald’s. The “8” bus passes by. Then the “1” bus passes by. Diagonally across the street is a Jack in the Box—one of McDonald’s nemeses. An older man with a yellow reflector vest and black headphones on his head pushes a shopping cart across the street from the Jack in the Box side of Telegraph. He leaves the shopping cart in front of the McDonalds doors and walks inside.

He orders his food and waits patiently for his number to be called. He grabs his food tray from the counter and walks toward a man with glasses sitting near the window drinking coffee and reading the newspaper.

The man with the headphones stands stoicly, staring at the man sitting. But the sitting man never lifts his head to acknowledge the other man’s presence. After a few moments, the man with the headphones finds a seat at the table next to the man he was staring at. Nodding his head to the beat coming out of his headphones, the man begins eating his Egg McMuffin.

Through the speakers on McDonald’s ceiling a country song quietly fills the room. An older man sitting near the window that faces Telegraph coughs. A young teenager’s cell phone rings, blaring a Jay-Z song and breaking the silence.

Another older man sat near the entrance wearing a fedora and a Bluetooth in his ear rests his head on his fisted hands. He looks around the empty room as if he were looking for someone.

A middle-aged man wearing jean shorts, a black sweater and black gloves walks into McDonald’s. Tattoos cover his legs. His calf muscles bulge with every step he takes towards the counter. He orders a coffee and steps to the side to add sugar and cream. He moves slowly. As he adds many packs of sugar to his coffee, he gazes at the employees with a curious pondering look.

Five Latina women are working behind the counter. They speak Spanish to each other until a customer approaches the counter. Occasionally, they laugh and joke around.

One older black man cleans the tables and floors. He walks slowly, almost with a limp, carrying a broom and dustpan. A woman in a fur coat catches his eye and he walks toward her with a smile. He softly talks to her for a few moments and then slowly walks away in the opposite direction.

He sweeps under a table, although there are no crumbs or dirt. The tables and floors are clean.

Everyone comes in alone. Everyone sits alone. No one really talks. No one seems to have anywhere to be.


  1. A on November 24, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    It’s at 45th, not 46th.

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